"All the world's a stage!"
Monomoy Theater's playful production of William Shakespeare's sportive, pastoral comedy "As You Like It" is set to the Age of Regency about 1790. Autocratic Dukes and Lords continue to rule their jurisdictions with full control over their subjects including brothers, sons, and daughters, or so it seems.
"And all the men and women merely players." Written in 1599, "As You Like It" is truly a testimonial to women's rights. Allison Layman is a shining star in the lead role of Rosalind, whose actions and words are beautifully delivered as a young woman of the court voices dissent. She is punished by banishment to the forest. Rosalind is a wholesome gal who gains the upper hand now disguised as a guy. Beat the men at their own game, so to speak.
Into the woods goes Rosalind followed by her best friend forever and first cousin Celia. Laura Axelrod's Celia, in disguise as a poor lady, is lighthearted and spunky, a perfect partner for the determined Rosalind.
"They have their exits and entrances." Themes of true love, power, fair and equal justice for all, the battle of the sexes, and Shakespeare's belief that a happy ending based on forgiveness is possible. Find common ground in nature and the debate moves forward.
"And one man in his time plays many parts." Meet Jacques whose lordly wisdom speaks of discontent and melancholy. In a forest where men live like Robin Hood, Jacques teaches all he encounters the difference between motley fools, noble fools, and worthy fools. Noted author Bernard Cornwell has the most memorable lines in the play – including the famous soliloquy quoted here – and quite naturally delivers Shakespeare's meaningful scenes in subtle but glorious fashion.
Director Terry Layman, Allison's father, has engaged Cameron Burrill's original music, adaptations, and composition. Burrill plays guitar accompanied by talented vocalists Emily Qualmann and Jacob Greene who float in and out of forest greenery. Alison Pugh's late 1700s garb sets the scene into the future from Elizabethan times. Ryan Goff's attractively designed forest is centered around a huge tree stump that also serves as a small stage. Duke Frederick's two huge portraits speak to who is in charge at his own court.
The play commences in Oliver's home. Oliver is a bit bossy to his younger brother Orlando who attempts to wrestle some sense into his sibling's small mindedness. Reid Williams (Orlando) and Tristan Rewald (Oliver) are both movie-star good looking, deep voices, and charm beyond expectations. Sibling rivalry or who's the boss?
Frederick (John Bucy) has exiled his older brother Duke Senior (Lawson Lewallen) whose daughter Rosalind is asked to remain in court. Orlando sets his eyes on Rosalind and it's love at first sight, but he is forced to flee by his older brother Oliver. Duke Frederick gets angry and banishes Rosalind who also flee with Celia. They are joined by a foolish fellow named Touchstone (funnyman Matthew Werner). In the Forest of Arden they meet sad Jacques. Meanwhile Orlando decorates the forest with "I Love Rosalind" poems. Lou Maloof makes a cameo appearance as the tipsy Sir Oliver Martext. Of course, Orlando is counseled on the meaning of love by a guy he meets not realizing he is she, his one true love Rosalind.
Monomoy's cast of 24 who all deserved to be mentioned continues the mayhem in the Forest until the happy ending, four couples blissfully wedded in the court of Duke Frederick. Rosalind being the only Shakespearean woman to speak the epilogue proves to be a modern woman even in today's times.
My preparation to thoroughly enjoy this production began by reading Bernard Cornwell's latest novel, "Fools and Mortals," about the origins of theater in Shakespeare's time. His new bestseller just happens to be dedicated "with affection to all the actors, actresses, directors, musicians, and technicians of the Monomoy Theatre.”
For your pleasure, do brush up on your Shakespeare before attending. The action is swift and several actors hold dual parts. But Shakespeare assures all that happily ever endings brings smiles to audience, cast, and crew alike. And even theater reviewers.
“As You Like It”
At The Monomoy Theatre, Main Street, Chatham
Through Aug. 11
Special $10 ticket prices for students 25 and under
Information and reservations: 508-945-1589, monomoytheatre.org